Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Take My Yoke Upon You

As we continue through Advent toward Christmas we see this very familiar saying.  Look at the beauty of the words that our Savior gave us:

Jesus said to the crowds:
“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened,
and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,
for I am meek and humble of heart;
and you will find rest for yourselves.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”

Rest.   That's what we are all after, isn't it?  With the fast pace and bustle of the world.  With work, school, obligations, sports, friendships, family, hobbies... there is no shortage at all of things that need to be done.  How much do these things fill our lives to the point that we are indeed burdened and in need of authentic rest.  Jesus tells us to take his yoke on us.   Wait? What?   You want us who are already burdened to put on a yoke?  A yoke is a tool used with beasts of burden... It is to harness them to the load and have them pull it.. .how is that restful? 

It's because the yoke that Jesus wants us to put on.. is a training yoke.   You see when you have a new ox, a new animal that you want to train to work on a farm, you harness it to one that is experienced.  The one with the experience shows the new one what to do.  Where as you can train them the hard way.. making them learn from their mistakes... letting them rub themselves raw against the yoke until they finally figure out the right way to do things... When you harness them to an experienced worker they learn from that worker, faster.. easier.. sharing the load.   They still have to do the work, but the work doesn't seem as hard.. and they get the support of the one who already knows what to do. 

That's what Jesus wants from us.  That's what Advent is about.  It's about getting ready for Christ to be born in our hearts.  It's about putting on the yoke that we share with Christ.   If you look at the beautiful year of Mercy Logo.. think of that.. Jesus is carrying the man.  They share one eye, the share a human nature.  Jesus is doing the work, but the man is benefiting.  Jesus is carrying him where he needs to go. He is teaching him.  That doesn't mean that the man will never have to work... but that Jesus is with him all the way.. to help him, to show him how to do it right, to give him support and learning.

What does that mean for us?   The first reading says that God "is the eternal God, creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint nor grow weary, and his knowledge is beyond scrutiny."  Think of that for a moment.. the person you are yoked with.. the one teaching you how to live, how to grow, how to work, how to be more perfectly human... will never grow weary of helping you. He'll never give up.  He has all the answers.  How much lighter indeed is the yoke of Christ knowing that we have him as our support?  That we are never alone and he is always by our side. 

It reminds me of a poem that my grandmother had in her living room growing up. 

Footprints in the Sand

One night I had a dream.

I dreamed I was walking along the beach
with the Lord..

Across the sky flashed scenes from my life..
For each scene, I noticed two sets of
footprints in the sand,
one belonging to me, and the other to the Lord..
When the last scene of my life flashed before me,
I looked back at the footprints in the sand.
I noticed that many times along the path of my life
there was only one set of footprints.
I also noticed that it happened at the very lowest
and saddest times in my life.
This really bothered me
and I questioned the Lord about it:
"Lord, you said that once I decided to follow you,
you'd walk with me all the way.
But I have noticed that during the most
troublesome times in my life
there is only one set of footprints.
I don't understand why
when I need you most you would leave me."
The Lord replied:
"My precious child, I love you and would
never leave you.
During your times of trial and suffering,
when you see only one set of footprints, it was then
that I carried you."

by Mary Stevenson

His servant and yours,